Thursday, May 5, 2011

Common knowledge

Thursday, 5-5-11

Sometimes things that are very common knowledge or common sense to me and to people in the US do not necessarily register on the minds of people in El Salvador. And I’m not just talking about people at the Pastoral House. I’m also not saying that this is a bad thing. It’s just different and something I often have a hard time adjusting to.

A prime example of this happened during school today. I had just finished the first four classes of the day when the bell rang signaling the end of the fourth period and the beginning of the 10-minutes recess. I gathered my things and walked to my last class of the day, my 1st grade class. I greeted the teacher and students. I sat down at the teacher’s desk, as I always do, to review my lesson plans for today’s class. I got my supplies out for the class.

Soon the bell rang signaling that the recess time was over and the final period had begun. The teacher and all the students entered the classroom. As I was about to get up to begin class the teacher told me that we weren’t having the final class today; all the students at the school were going home. Okay. Do you think this is information that you could have given me before the bell rang? Was there some purpose for me sitting down and reviewing the lesson plans that I wouldn’t be teaching? And why did the school have that last recess at all if they were all going to be going home after the bell anyway?

The answer to all these questions: Your guess is as good as mine. And there probably is no actual reason. That’s just the way it is and I can’t explain it because I don’t know why. I doubt the teacher could explain why. This situation also is not consistent with what’s happened in the past when we don’t have the last period. For example, yesterday we had no final period because there was a meeting at school. Of course, I didn’t know that ahead of time but that comes as no surprise. However, yesterday when we had no final period the whole school was dismissed right after the fourth period class.

When I got home I walked up to Kathy’s office to tell her why I was home early. I explained the situation and that the teacher hadn’t told me we weren’t going to be having a last period. Kathy immediately responded, “Why didn’t she tell you that before the bell rang?” You see, as a fellow gringo, Kathy understands my confusion. She knows that in the US this would be seen as a waste of time and possibly also rude. We chatted a short while about similar things that happen here in El Salvador like inconsistencies in how things are done, prioritizing that doesn’t make sense, things people don’t do that are a part of normal processes in the US, etc.

But why? I wish there was a better answer other than, “That’s just the way it is.” I don’t like answers like that. It feels cheap, like a way of circumventing providing an actual answer to a question. But I’m not sure how else to explain it, not to myself and not to others. And even though I know that there is sometimes no good answer to the reason things happen here, I often forget and go in search for an explanation only to end up frustrated. But that’s just the way it is. That’s life in El Salvador.

1 comment:

Matt said...

It's interesting sometimes how cultural differences manifest themselves. You have always said that Salvadorians kind of operate on their own time.